“What is your ideal client, and why?”
I think that might be one of the most intelligent questions I have ever been asked. I knew the answer immediately, and had to keep it short.
As a doula, part of my training is to identify and evaluate my personal biases, and how they might affect the care I give. From the beginning of my career then, I have always had to think about these kinds of questions. I have had to evaluate whether or not I ought to set boundaries around which kinds of clients I will or will not take on. If I do set boundaries, what should they be, and why?
I started doula work because I wanted to be a midwife.
That has a great impact on the types of clients I prefer to serve. (And doulas – admit you have a preference – we all do. Anyone who says they don’t is selling something.) Of course, I have often served outside my comfort zone, and while I don’t regret it, I have often been burned. Not by the client, but by really rough rides. Birth work is hard.
In order to be a good doula, there is a certain amount of emotional investment I must make if I am to be effective at all. The line between professional and personal relationship gets a little bit blurred, and so I carry a bit of each birth with me, wherever I go. I can remember every birth I have ever been to, and how it made me feel as a woman, mother, wife, and human being.
So, yes. I have an ideal client, and I have discovered that it has very little to do with circumstances, and everything to do with the client herself.
My ideal client is one who educates herself, and who takes full responsibility for the choices she makes along the way during her birthing year.
She doesn’t take her care provider’s word for everything. She doesn’t take my word for everything, either, but makes her own decisions.
My ideal client educates herself by taking classes, or reading evidence-based books and online resources. She knows how to evaluate information, weighing it against her instincts and risk factors, confidently choosing what is right for her and her baby.
My ideal client understands informed consent and refusal. She understands her patient/client rights, and asks intelligent, informed questions to gain insight into what is best for her and her baby. She is willing to keep an open mind and explore the benefits, risks, and alternatives to each option available to her.
My ideal client understands that a birth plan is not a list of demands to be met, but a conversation to be had. She understands that her choice of provider and place of birth is important. If she cannot make her ideal choice (because that can’t always happen), she is able to communicate her needs effectively, and to make the best she can of a tough situation. She knows when to compromise, and when to stand her ground.
My ideal client is flexible. She understands the wisdom of learning non-medical pain management, because her birth may go too fast to get the epidural she planned for. She knows that her labor may go on longer than she thought, and she needs the nap an epidural can help her get.
My ideal client knows that there is no “one-size-fits-all” birth, and she is prepared to advocate for her needs, and the needs of her baby.
My ideal client almost doesn’t need a doula, but she will benefit greatly from hiring one.
Probably 99% of women who hire me fall into this ideal. Women are intelligent, thoughtful, flexible, and strong–and I am there for them when all they need is the reminder that these things are true of them.
In your line of work, who is your ideal client? Why or why not? As a mom who hired a doula, how does this post make you feel?
Grace & Peace,